Ecclesiastes 4:9-16

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 16, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

In the previous section of Ecclesiastes 4:1-8, the Teacher talked about achievement and power, and how it’s all meaningless in the context of this world. In today’s passage of Ecclesiastes 4:9-16, we first see some encouragement to work together and then we see his discussion on leadership.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 shows us that it is better to live our lives in community with others rather than completely by ourselves. It says: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

In the context of the previous passage discussing success and maturity, this shows that we can achieve more when we work together in our society. It begins with teamwork and working toward common goals. If something happens to cause difficulty with your mission, if you have a friend working toward that same goal, they can help you get back on your feet. This applies to all relationships - coworkers, friends, business partners, spouses, and fellow workers for God’s Kingdom.

We will do so much better when we have people around us to support us rather than trying to do everything on our own. Of course, there are times we need to do things by ourselves, but if we at least have someone cheering us on, we will be encouraged by that and have the motivation to keep moving forward.

If we remain isolated, we are more prone to getting our priorities out of whack and becoming selfish. Having at least one other person in your corner so to speak who shares your beliefs and goals will help keep you grounded and properly focused on what you’re doing.

The Teacher takes it one step further than just two people, and he informs us that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. If two are good, three are better! This verse has often been applied to the context of marriage, where the three strands are husband, wife, and God. While this is true that a marriage with God in it is much stronger than one without Him, that is not the only context where this applies. Any relationship should have God in it to truly succeed, as success is not measured by the world’s standards but by God’s.

The Teacher goes on in verses 13-16 to say this: “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Here, the Teacher is discussing the tension between older traditions and newer changes. Sometimes, a person who has been in a particular leadership position for many years may need to step aside for the good of the organization so that new ideas can be implemented. But, on the flip side, just because someone is younger and newer does not mean they are wiser; they may fall into temptation that the older, wiser leader knows to avoid.

The Teacher’s conclusion is that the power of being in leadership only brings frustration and does not give life true meaning and purpose. That true meaning and purpose can only be found in the things of God, not in the things of this world.

The church at Corinth in the first century experienced this very situation. They discovered that powerful leaders could divide the church rather than strengthening it. One of the overall themes of Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians is the need for unity in the church. That church was experiencing a lack of order, rival cliques, and other internal problems brought about by a lack of unity. Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 for more on this. We know that Christ Himself is not divided but the church often becomes that way. We were all created to glorify God in different ways, but we still have a unified mission, brought about through our faith in Christ and His unifying death and resurrection.

The wisdom we gain from today’s passage of Ecclesiastes is twofold. First, strive to live a life of community rather than isolation as having people working with you and encouraging you will help you more fully complete the mission that God has for you. Second, pray for discernment for yourself and for your leaders, that they would always seek unity in Christ and what’s best for the groups they’re leading. When we live our lives in the context of God’s glory and for His purposes, then none of this will be meaningless.

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